Tanzania: Government Clarifies Seizure of ATCL Aircraft

The government yesterday explained the seizure of Air Tanzania Company Limited's (ATCL) plane in South Africa, assuring that the aircraft will soon be released.

The government's clarification comes amid unclear understanding among wananchi over reasons behind the seizure of one of the newly purchased aircrafts to revive the state-owned airline.

Speaking during an interview with national television-Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation- the government's Chief Spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbasi said there was misunderstanding over the issue to members of the public.

Many link the confiscation of the aircraft with debts that ATCL owed the South African Airways when the two airlines partnered, he said.

"In fact, our plane has been seized following a court case that existed since the 1980s between a South African national, Hermanus Steyn and the government," Dr Abbasi clarified.

Mr Steyn had lived in Tanzania and happened to possess huge wealth including lands, livestock and other valuables that were then nationalised. According to Dr Abbasi, Steyn accepted the nationalisation of his properties but subject to compensation.

In 1990s, he reached an agreement with the government over the amount to be paid as compensation and the government paid part of the debt, Dr Abbasi explained.

The claimant has now sought an enforcement of foreign arbitration award in South Africa for payment of the remaining amount. "These are normal legal procedures.

We Tanzania, holding chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), we respect legal systems. But, we assure Tanzanians that our aircraft will come back, though I can't predict dates," he stated.

The government spokesperson said the remaining six planes of the ATCL were all safe except the one in South Africa. Dr Abbasi explained that though the court ruled on the enforcement of foreign arbitration, the main case is not yet heard on whether the government will bow to his demand or not.

Dr Abbasi said Steyn chose to be heard by the court without presence of the Tanzanian government and that Tanzanian lawyers were currently at work to ensure that the aircraft was brought back to the country.

Bernard Lugongo

All Africa

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